Geoffrey Shryhane takes a close look at the topics of grief and loneliness...
In those blisteringly dark days a decade ago, friends and folks I hardly knew at all were comforting.
And in soft voices they came out and whispered all the usual phrases: Time heals. Keep busy. Think of the good times.
Hadn’t I said them to others grieving time and again? The words ran through my drab, confused brain as the cards and letters piled up on the coffee table.
Now I’ve had years to mull over being a widower (it’s an awful word) and had the benefit of talking to people in the same, very normal predicament.
And what emerges is this – most people who have lost their partners agree. Time takes off the screamingly raw edge of grief, but living alone is something they wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy.
Yes, millions are in the same “fix” but most of us feel “it’s just me”.
And some of us haven’t a jot of sympathy for our fellow loners. We just plod along wondering just how long it takes for that precious commodity “time” to do its work. And heal.
To outsiders we probably seem okay and try to understand when we say: “It’s half a life. Less in many ways.” We are “free” to do just what we like. But it’s not the answer.
I feel caught in a trap. Yes, I want to go to catch the sun in Spain and sit in Venice drinking coffee. But I can’t because the person I want to go with isn’t here any more.
The best advice is that we loners should count our blessings and keep smiling.
In the deep gloom of February nights, it’s not easy.
But at least when we’re counting, we’re escaping our sadness for a moment or two.
I’m staggering back to the Edwardian era to report on scenes of terrible fighting and drunkenness near Pemberton’s Carnegie Library.
The battle brought 35 policemen to sort out the trouble and people poured from their homes to watch the spectacle. Some had already gone to bed, but appeared on the street in their nightwear, intent on not missing the carnage which involved 100 men from all parts of Wigan.
An eyewitness said that the district had been quiet and people were walking taking in the mild summer air.
Trouble began – doesn’t it always? - when the pubs closed and men young and old began assembling outside the Carnegie.
The atmosphere happy until one particularly drunken man threw a brick and smashed a window of the library. Some men laughed but others, proud of the building, took exception and that’s when fights broke out.
A great cry went up and police arrived within minutes. The first officers to arrive found it impossible to break up the men. Reinforcements were called and the sight was not a pretty one.
The goings-on was amusing to some locals. But others were disgusted saying the tone of the area was being lowered.
After midnight the fighting was brought under control and quite a few drunken men “slunk” home towards Orrell.
Police arrested about 20 who were taken away to appear in court on various grounds.
Sometimes there just isn’t an answer; sometimes there is an answer but those who know that answer stay tight-lipped.
So how about this for a conundrum?
Last autumn, people in the centre of Shevington were delighted when two beautiful trees were provided jointly by local councillors and the parish council.
Then – shock and horror.
The trees were chopped down by Wigan Council’s operatives.
It’s not difficult to imagine that locals were furious and demanded to know why the totally healthy trees were felled.
And who did – or authorise – the chopping.
The Shevington Parish Council news letter makes it quite clear that despite all attempts to discover the culprits, no answer has been forthcoming.
All efforts to unveil the choppers have failed.
But the good news is that the Shevington Bloom people have now succeeded in getting an agreement from Wigan Council and the trees will be placed.
But good though this is, it doesn’t tell the people who cut down the original trees.
Perhaps a case of the problem going away if you allow enough time to elapse.
The good news is that the Shevington in Bloom organisation have succeeded in getting Wigan Council to replace the trees.
But there are many people in the area who would still like to know who gave authority for the original trees to be felled.
It’s just 80 years to the week since George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier book was published. True, time has gone by but the his name is as alive today as it was eight decades ago. More so.
Various events have marked George’s days mooching around the poorer parts of our town in February 1936 and the man with the pen had gone off to fight in the Spanish Civil war when then book came out a year later – 22,000 copies, most of which were supplied to members of the Left Book Club.
Wigan was a poor town. And this newspaper devoted just 200 words to the book.
Even today there are local folks who said Orwell – real name Eric Blair – should have written about the best side of Wigan – the houses on Wigan Lane, Haigh Hall and the beautiful Mesnes Park.
They have missed the point. Orwell came to make the authorities aware of the awful slum housing conditions. The shocking dangers in the mines where deaths were common-place. The bleak side of life.
Orwell achieved his ambition – and places like Wigan began to be improve. It didn’t happen overnight.
Some years later, the writer said he regretted not buying a pair of Wigan clogs which, he estimated would be ideal when working in his garden.
At the risk of being beaten to death with a wet bus ticket, I have to say I’m not over the moon with the plans to
redesign the area at the top of town.
In fact, it doesn’t seem two minutes since the last
re-vamp – and cards on the table, I like the area just as it is.
I like the different levels the double sided walled-seating which enable different views of the Marketplace.
The mosaic surfaces have lots of personality and their colours alter depending on the light.
But the new scheme will go ahead.
It will obviously open up the whole “top of town” area and the central features will be four large columns (apparently to echo the old tram lines).
These tall structures remind me of columns in Italy’s Pompeii.
Alas ,Wigan doesn’t have a Mount Vesuvius back drop.
In reality, the new scheme might be great. But from the photos it looks fairly bland to me. Time will tell.